By RENEE WEBB
Healing of spiritual and emotional wounds, enrichment of the faith and the building up of relationships were just some of the outcomes of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat held July 28-30 for post-abortive women and men at Domus Trinitatis Retreat Center in rural Carroll.
Stormy Poss, retreat facilitator, said it was humbling to watch God bring his children into a deeper relationship with him.
“The participants were able to seek healing and form a relationship with their child,” she said.
Poss explained that in some cases the retreat was the first time for the post-abortive women and men to enter into humanity with their child – naming the baby and having conversations with the child.
“Imaging my children fully-grown with Jesus, seeing them as my guides in life” was the most powerful part of the retreat for one of the male participants.
Ultimately, Poss noted, “It’s about entering into a deeper relationship with Christ and because of that, being able to enter into a deeper relationship with their child.”
Not only was the retreat an opportunity to establish a relationship with the abortive child, but wives and husbands had a chance to enrich their marriage.
One wife said because of the retreat, “I believe our marriage has pushed over the breach.”
“Wow,” was the response of another retreatant.
One participant called it a beautiful retreat with wonderful accommodations and food, “but what put it over the top was your time, effort, love and compassion, dedication and true caring that was injected into every session.”
Another participant said they loved the retreat and defined it as “wonderfully loving and accepting.”
“God knew exactly what I needed. So much more healing took place than I imagined,” a retreatant said.
Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat offered a unique sensory-based treatment which integrated emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions. It used Living Scripture Exercises and rituals with the reenactment of Gospel stories, the sacraments, prayer and group activities.
Voice of God
“The Living Scripture Exercises, putting myself in the Scripture stories, allowed me to really hear the voice of God,” said a participant.
A member of the retreat team, who is also post-abortive, described the experience as transformative.
“Each one of us on that weekend journey left changed,” she said. “We arrived as individuals carrying our burdens alone, in secret, unsure of that to expect. But together, through the shared stories, the tears and laughter and heartfelt communication we found a safe place to lay our burdens down.”
The team member said they were able to experience Christ’s presence – so close, loving and forgiving – that it allowed them to forgive themselves and let go of the heavy burdens of guilt and shame. Peace washed over them.
“My child would be 42 years old had I not aborted her,” she said. “I didn’t have the joy of watching her grow up, I missed out on the joy of sharing our lives as she became an adult. But through this retreat, I now know that I will have the joy of praising God together with her someday.”
Father Shane Deman, vocations director of the diocese, was the priest who served on the retreat team.
“The experience of this Rachel’s Vineyard retreat was truly therapeutic. It was evident that the men and women who participated found healing from past wounds, but also strength to continue on with a sense of hope,” he said. “I was impressed that at the root of this healing was a personal relationship with Christ who seeks to provide mercy and not condemnation.”
Father Deman said he would highly recommend a future retreat to any man or woman suffering from the loss of an aborted or miscarried child.
Another member of the team was Kara Kardell, assistant director of youth and young adult ministry. She suspects that many may not know about this retreat, but believes many post-abortive women could benefit from it.
“It provides a safe place for healing after an abortion, and at the center of it all is Christ’s love and forgiveness,” Kardell said.
Poss extended gratitude to the people of the Carroll area who provided the homemade food and snacks as it “provided an extra loving touch to the participants.”
“It strengthened my faith. When I see the hand of God laid upon the participants, it reminds me that his hand is also upon me for when my next difficult situation will arise,” she said.
Poss pointed out they would like to offer two Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats each year – summer and winter.